If indeed home is where the heart is, then for me Colorado must be home. My trip back to Aspen was exactly the rejuvenating start-over I needed. A few weeks in the warm embrace of my friends has left me happy, excited and eager for my onward journey. It also helped me begin to form an idea of what I want the end of my journey to look like.

As soon as I deplaned in Chicago I felt the buzz of America again, 100 yards up the breezeway I found myself inexplicably racing to pass my fellow passengers. I was walking like an American. That is to say I was walking like the Pamplona bulls were chasing me and being the first one to the immigration line was the only way to ensure my survival.

Immigration made me smile, for the first time in many months and throughout many airports, border check points and ports, I was a national! I got to stand in the short line, I was welcomed home.

One more flight and I was back in Aspen, being met by my beloved Audrey who guided my delirious, jet-lagged self back down valley to Carbondale – the worker-bee hive of the Roaring Fork Valley. In the morning I awoke to a breakfast date at my favorite local early morning haunt with Audrey, my friend and physician Hilary and my gorgeous goddaughter Ella Rose.

After a day to sort of get over my culture shock and sleep deprivation it was time to tackle my materialistic side and sort through all my stored boxes. When I left Colorado I condensed most of my belongings down to around 40 Tupperware boxes. The contents of these boxes vary from camping gear to books, to art and inordinate numbers of purses, sunglasses and $300 jeans - most of which I purchased when I weighed about 100lbs. Something about depression makes me thin – the new improved, fat and happy Rachel is no longer a size 25. Guess I better find a short, borderline anorexic twelve year-old to donate all my pants to.

I changed out almost all of the clothes that I have been wearing for the last seven months, gave my flip flops a much needed bleach bath to wash away who knows how many manky Asian markets and decided to stop pretending I am a backpacker, thus swapping my convertible roller bag/pack for my over sized Burton Wheely.

Aside from homesickness and longing to have a conversation with someone I have known for more than two hours, I had some real admin tasks to attend to - Apple store, doctors and accountants, good times. A new iPhone, my tax return and a clean bill of health later it was time to fully relax into creature comforts and familiarity.

Ahh the comforts, let’s begin with my car – I am not sure how to best describe the feeling of not only being able to go wherever I want when I want, but to also be able to read the street signs, for a weary traveler this is bliss. Getting behind the wheel again was a breeze, I remembered which side of the road to drive on most of the time and quickly regained my multi-tasking skills, talking, texting, drinking a latte, waiving a t friends and driving all at the same time.

Bed. I am a sucker for good linens and down. For ten whole nights I got to sleep in a cloud of featherbeds and comforters. My back protested for the first few nights, having grown accustomed to plywood thinly veiled in poly-blend sheets, but by day four I was hard-pressed to get out of the feather cocoon.

Friends and family. Most days I had dates for all three meals and a few coffee hours thrown in the mix. I attempted unsuccessfully to fit in everyone I wanted to see, but did manage to see many of those I love. The luxury of calling people without having to convert the time and worrying about costs was too good and if I wasn't in someone's direct company, I was burning through my rollover minutes.
Dan. Despite our decision to no longer be married we remain the very best of friends and I consider him family regardless of our legal status. Getting to spend time with him was a huge part of my wanting to go home. Dan comes with a bonus feature – our dog Gus, an Australian Shepherd avalanche rescue dog. Pretty much once the three of us were reunited we were inseparable. I am blessed beyond measure to have Dan in my life and no matter how unconventional our relationship may seem now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

New me, old town. So the big thing for me personally was to see if I could bring my new tool box home with me. If the Rachel I have become in Europe and Asia, can maintain back in the states. I gotta tell you old habits are hard to break and ruts can be hard to climb out of. I definitely stepped backwards a few times, but I caught myself and realized that it’s okay.

The old Rachel is sarcastic, can be caddy and I love her, she’s funny. She is also a bit insecure, and I love her for that. And she leaks – her eyes malfunction often, welling with tears and betraying her tough yet yogi façade. This trait used to drive me crazy. Crying made me feel weak and once the waterworks began – forget it, I was committed for the whole day. This time though when I would spring a leak, I watched the emotions come and then I observed as they left and I loved myself for still feeling something.

Mostly what I can tell has changed in me is that I no longer dwell. I held a black belt in dwelling. I was Rachel Catherine Dwell, Phd. If there was a major league for dwelling, you’d be looking at the commissioner. But no more. I forgive myself now, I love myself now, I acknowledge and embrace my flaws, they are as much a part of me as my triumphs and more admirable traits.

Of course I strive to be yogi, so I am disappointed when I slip and become, as Dan once coined it, the anti-Rachel. Not dwelling doesn’t mean that I don’t still hold myself accountable, but it does mean that after I begin a day at the bottomless mimosa brunch café with my friend Kristin (of Kristin Annoyed) and end it passed out in front of the Superbowl, I don’t have to hate myself in the morning or recount every word I said, beating myself up for simply having a good time.

So this is how my visit home went. I was restored, rejuvenated, reassured and thanks to my new accountant I am being refunded. Home is an amazing place filled with the most wonderful people and while apparently I had to go half-a-world away to be able to love myself there, luckily for me home stayed right where it was.


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